Welcome! Read Me!

This blog is created to give you a central location to answer any questions you have about my current and upcoming treatments and reactions. It is also created to help me make Lemonade out of the Lemons I have been given, so I will keep this as positive as I can.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Re-Construction Zone

~~WARNING~~ The person writing this blog post is impaired by Multiple Pain Medications so rambling and or nonsense is possible and/or expected. Read at your own risk! ~~WARNING~~

Well... the big surgery is DONE!!! Last Tuesday I checked into the hospital for my DIEP Reconstruction. I was so nervous! There were things that I was better prepared for this time than I was not last time. I didn't bring so much stuff for one thing. Last time I wore Ear Rings and other Jewelry and I brought a ton of stuff in my suitcase... This time... I brought my Cell Phone and the clothes on my back. It was a lot less to worry about. While we were in the prep room I kept having Deja Vu. There was one girl there who was telling all of the allergies and issues they had that was going to make this the worst surgery ever, and then they brought in another gal who was having a total panic attack. in my Deja Vu memory one of them stood up and ran out of the room, with only the hospital gown on, screaming "I can't do this!! AAAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!" Thankfully this didn't happen, but it did have a way of making me feel so much more calm for myself. Since I had gotten through all of the preparations and was feeling pretty good. It was kinda funny but they actually required me to take a Pregnancy test. LOL... This really made me chuckle since I have several reasons that this is likely not even possible. But I humored them and acted very shocked when they told me it was negative. I was nervous about the PICC line but excited for it at the same time. I actually went into surgery with a basic IV so that made me feel a little bit better that I would not be 100% aware when they put it in. :)
Once I was all prepped they took me back to the OR. Back there it is just a crazy white room where the only colors were the scrubs on the nurses and the anesthesiologist. We came in and I had to get up on the operating table. The nurse and anesthesiologist start talking to me about my kids I was laughing about something and the next thing I know I was on my way to the ICU. While I was being taken from the recovery room to the ICU they drove me past the waiting room so they could pick up Alex. Well, he and all those who were sitting with him (Cindy, Suzie, and Mike and Anita (his Parents), was anyone else there? LOL) poked their head out the door to say HI and they chased the bed down the hall for a while. :) Good times! It was the fastest 13 hours of my whole life. I am not sure the exact time breakdown but a few of the highlights of the process that seem noteworthy... First thing that happened was the removal of my Expander's, then they cut my stomach from hip bone to hip bone. In order to gain access to all the veins and fat he had to also cut my belly button away from my skin. Apparently I had a small Hernia in my belly button from my previous pregnancies, so that was removed at this point as well. Somewhere in there the Doc noticed that my chest was not level because of a Rib bone. So he shaved off a small portion of the bone in order to make things sit better. Then came the fun part of pulling each "fat tree" by the Vein and disconnected it and reconnected it in my chest. I am assuming this is what took up most of the time. But once he was done with that part there was approximately 2 hours spent just giving me stitches. When I went in for my Mastectomy the stitches were not pretty, but this time you can definitely tell that more care was taken to get it so it would heal much prettier. At least as pretty as a scar that essentially cut me in half could look. Once this was completed I was in the recovery room for about 2 hours... of that time I think I remember opening my eyes once, it was too bright, so I closed them again and woke up in the ICU. Once I was in the ICU they set out to put in the PICC line. They had me hold my arm to the side while they determined where to place it. I did not look at any of the process, so don't ask me what they did or how they did it... lets just say it was done, and I barely felt any of it. It actually hurt more to get the xray to confirm that it was placed correctly than it hurt to get it in. But I can tell you right now my stay was so much easier when every time they wanted to have a blood sample they did not get a single needle near my skin. The nurse was able to collect it with a needle-less syringe and them give it to the Flebotomists. I smiled every time that happened. I know I made the right choice! One downside to the PICC line is that I have issues with some tapes and the one that they use for the PICC is one of them, so I ended up with some pretty good blisters from it. But they are already mostly healed, so I can't really complain much. I did get a few shots so that I could get my Blood thinner. It was a small light shot, so it didn't hurt when I was getting it, but it bruised every where that they poked me. All along the back of my arm and on each of my thighs. (They spread it out so that I didn't have one spot that was unbearable.) Well I can tell you that the blood thinner was doing its job because a few of the places that they stuck me with a needle was bleeding quite consistently. Once they noticed this they spent more time ensuring that they got it to clot before leaving me. So it was only an issue on a couple sites. Speaking of blood loss, I did at one point have low iron, so they needed to give me a small transfusion, but it was no big deal because of the PICC. I didn't have any ill effects from it.
Going into this surgery I was trying to decide how it would be in comparison to my Mastectomy. I figured that the tummy would be twice as bad and that the breast would be just slightly less painful than the Mastectomy. Well, I think I hit it mostly on the head... I think that the breast is barely painful at all.It helps that with my Mastectomy most of my nerves were "killed" Most of my pain came from the JP Drains. My stomach was pretty painful. My biggest fear was that I would not be able to use my tummy muscles to sit up and that my chest and arms would be too painful to help. Thankfully that was not the case. I did find that if I sit up by holding my legs behind my knees instead of pushing up on my bed that it was a lot less painful... and pulling directly up rather than over to the side was much better as well.
Walking... is a chore. I am grateful that my Mother in law had a walker to share with me or I am pretty sure that I would not be doing well. I can do short walks without it, and I am trying to do longer ones as often as possible, but it is nice to have the ability to rest and have the support of the walker when I need it. I do need to walk hunched over in order to keep the skin and muscles tight, and not pull out my stitches. This is not great on my back, but I am surviving it. The girls absolutely LOVE the Walker. When they came home on Wednesday they spend the bulk of that day taking turns pushing it around or playing on or around it.
The girls have been really great. They are always asking why I have to walk funny and I told them that the Doc gave me some big "Owies" so that I will be able to get better. I did show them my tummy because they were so curious. they also needed to see the bruises on my arm and legs. Once they knew where all of my "Owies" were they were able to accept it a little bit more. They still ask why the Doc had to give me such a big "Owie" and when will I be able to walk normal again, and I have not had a real easy answer for these questions yet. It is hard to talk about the Cancer still with the Little ones, and it is even harder to explain an "optional" plastic surgery when I am technically "All Better".
This week I went into the Doctor and it was quite a wonderful day. When I came home from the hospital I had 3 drains (one for each breast and one in my tummy) and I also had a Pain pump that was pumping pain meds through 2 tiny tubes directly into my tummy in order to control that pain more consistently. I was also sent home from the hospital needing Oxygen. Well at my appointment The Doc removed the 2 drains in my breasts and the 2 tubes for the pain pump and also tested my oxygen levels and determined that I was free to stop using that as well. So I went from being hooked up and basically tied down with tubes to only having 1 drain remaining, and that will likely be removed this coming week. It is then that I will start to feel more normal. I will be able to wear more normal clothes and bathe easier without worrying that I am going to cause any harm to the tube.
The timing can't be better since if I am chosen for a position next week I will have to go into their office for some testing and paperwork. So it will be nice to be able to go as a person rather than a patient. :)

Before I go I just want to give a huge THANK YOU to those people who helped me to get better. First and Foremost... My Hubby Alex. Without him I likely wouldn't walk as much as I needed or breathe into the little Breathing machine as much as I should, I would completely lose track of my pills, and I could definitely not be able to handle the girls. He has been the best help through this! I love you!! Additionally I want to thank All of the Nurses and Aides in the Hospital, My parents for watching the girls until we felt more ready to have them home, and to my wonderful neighbors who have been helping out with dinners. It is so nice to have one less thing to worry about. I am hoping that by the end of next week I will be mostly recovered and I hope to be able to cook something... or at least reach the microwave.... That will be a great time!!

I love you all and I welcome any questions or comments. I know I missed something that someone may want to know about. :)  Hugs!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The "vacation" is over!

OK, It has been a while since I have written up a new Blog Post. I have been on a "vacation" of sorts.
Radiation made me quite tired, and then once I got done I started feeling so much better that I didn't have time to just sit and blog. So I guess it is a good thing! :)
I will fill you in on a few things past and then update you on the things present and future. (A little like the Christmas Carol without all the ghosts. LOL) And hopefully I won't ramble too much and stay focused.

On June 1st 2011 I "graduated" from Radiation. This was a Great feeling, though a little bitter-sweet. Through my time going to Radiation I met some really great people and had some nice relaxing time working on the puzzles there. I worked on I believe 6 total puzzles ranging from landscapes, buildings, animals and fish. Though strangely enough I never actually had the opportunity to see any of them completed. I would always get them to the point that there were only 20-30 pieces remaining and would have to leave, and by the time I would get in the next day someone would already have it completed and a new puzzle would be started. This is the last view of my last puzzle that I was working on as I left.

On my way out I was given a Certificate of Completion and a Bottle of "Bubbly" (Sparkling Cider)

And it was great that I had Frank and his Wife come back into the office (even though he was done with his Radiation for the day) to hear me RING THE BELL! And I will tell you right now, I rang that bell with all of my Heart! I wanted the world to hear that I was DONE! And I was ringing it right the first time since I DO NOT plan on doing it again. :)

At my final Appointment with my Radiation Oncologist she let me in on a little secret... Even though I wasn't coming back, my Burn would only get worse before it got better. Essentially as she explained it to me, what they do today doesn't hurt you until about a week later... So all of the treatments were building up to that final week AFTER I graduated. I have to say I think my regimen of Aloe Creams and Vitamins helped me out A LOT!!! As far as my skin was concerned. I had to deal with itching and peeling, but for the most part it was "uncomfortable" more than it was painful, and I only got a couple very small blisters which went away fairly quickly. One thing I did not anticipate was that the burn would go all the way through me... They aimed at my collarbone in the front and I got a burn just above my Shoulder blade on my back!! That was odd! I now have a tan rectangle on my back. I bet you are jealous!! Right?!?! :) I could tell that after about 2-3 weeks after Graduation I started to come out of the Fatigue Fog that I was in. I was all of a sudden able to hold a train of thought for longer than 2 minutes, and I wasn't nearly falling asleep at stop signs anymore. Now this isn't to say that I am back to 100%, but I finally started to feel mostly normal. I could even lay on my right side while sleeping by the end of week 3, so that was a relief! And my girls could hug me without me cringing. And that made all the difference in the world!
I still have my lovely Expanders in, waiting for my Reconstruction Surgery. And they are less than Natural feeling, or looking... But even they are not bothering me as much lately. They are only really painful if one of the girls head-butts me or is climbing all over me too much. I can't be too rowdy, but I can at least hold them, hug them and carry them without pain. It is as if my body knows that I am nearing the end of this ugly road and giving me a glimpse of what I could be feeling like soon! I seriously cannot wait! Here is a picture that was posted on my fellow BC bloggers blog post a while back...

These are a sample of the Expanders that are being used to keep my shape for reconstruction. The white is a rigid plastic back and the dark circle is the port that is used to fill the Expanders with Saline and then it has a clear "bubble" that expands when filled. This is completely covered with Muscle and skin. I am grateful that this is not a Long term solution for me and will be removed next week. I do not like having alien products in my body, and they have been there since March!
On Tuesday July 19th 2011 I will check in to the Hospital for a procedure called DIEP Reconstruction. Put simply it will give me a "Tummy Tuck" and a "Boob Job" all at once! Great idea right?!?! I thought so. :) The more complex version of this is the fact that I will be in Surgery for most of the day. My Surgeon will be taking individual Fat "trees" at the Vein level detaching them and re-attaching them to veins in my chest muscle. This is a very long and arduous task, and I know that I personally would not want to be the guy doing it, and will be happy to sleep right through it. Once I am out I will essentially be in the ICU (there is another name for it when it is because of Surgery, but I don't recall it at the moment) because I will need to be watched like a hawk for the first 24 hours at least. If there are any of the branches that die because of Clotting or other issues they will need to take be back to surgery immediately. I hope that there aren't any issues, but I am glad that if there are that it should be caught early enough that it won't mean a second hospital stay to fix it... I hope! :) I have been Anti-Dieting since radiation got done. I don't want the Doc to run out of Fat stores to use, so I am making sure they are "healthy" by the time I go in for the procedure. ;)
As I said in my Mastectomy Post I have learned that I am NOT a fan of the Hospital... And I have discussed my IV options with the Doc to help make my stay at least a little more palatable. We are going with the PICC line so that I do not need so many needle sticks while I am there. This will be a great benefit I hope. But I am absolutely terrified of complications with the PICC. I am have never been and likely never will be OK with Needles. You would think after having 3 kids, Gestational Diabetes (poking my finger 4+ times DAILY) and Cancer that I would be "numb" to the idea of Needles... But NOPE! I still loathe the thought of them and have an intense fear of having them anywhere near me!

Additionally, I was recently given a great "opportunity" to find new employment. (thanks to a "reduction in Force") And in so doing I was given the opportunity to not be required to go back to work so quickly after my Reconstruction. (I have to see this as an opportunity right now so I don't get angry.) But the fact is that I had used up a great deal of my PTO for everything else and I would only have 2 weeks to take off for my reconstruction and then I would have absolutely nothing left after that and may have had to start taking leave without pay if I needed to take any other days off. This surgery is potentially going to take me at least 3+ weeks to be really up to par, so if I was still working I would not have the full 3+ weeks to heal in peace. Now, I will be gaining Unemployment, so I will still have to put in applications and it is possible that I will be required to go to interviews if they call while I am healing, but I guess I can fake normal for a couple hours to get that done. I am really praying that this was an opportunity to get me an AWESOME job, with fantastic hours and benefits. Though it is highly unlikely that I will find one quite as flexible with working from home as my prior job. But at the same time once I am done with this and my Follow up surgery(s), I should not need quite the same flexibility, and I can start using PTO, like a normal mom, for when I have a cold or when one of the girls is sick, instead of Chemo and surgeries. I hope that I have applied for my last FMLA and can just be ready to have a real life again.

Real life... it is in my not so distant future... I can feel it...
And it feels GREAT!!!!